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NZ’s Hidden Delight

By Gordon

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You know how there are some places that you never get sick of going to visit. Well New Zealand is one of those places for me. I’ve been heading over for the snow  and adventure of this place for some time… I proposed to Blahblah on Milford Sound (better than Doubtful Sound), I had my first university ski trip there and I never ever get sick of the sheer incredible beauty of the place. You know what they say, around every corner is another postcard.
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Wanting to escape for a short break of winter chill and snow I was looking to try something a little more challenging and off the beaten path. New Zealand is one such place where you can really ‘unplug’ with a adventure where they’re not trying to cover every single footstep that you may take with warnings  protect your adult ass. Essentially, you’re responsible for your own actions and if you put yourself in harm’s way, then so be it.
So, off to the club fields of NZ we went. I headed over with a mate of mine Paul, who’s pretty much as nuts about the white stuff as I am. Sure, we’re both not as young and reckless as we used to be in our youth, but we both still like to give it a bit of a nudge. So, what is a ‘Club Field’ in NZ? Essentially they’re small fields that house some accommodation up on the mountain, or at least close ( you may have to walk up 500 steps from the accommodation to the base of the rope tow, but hey, you’re on the snow which is quite something in NZ) enough to walk from the carpark.

 

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The view from the dining room at Broken River
The big thing to remember about club fields is that they’re out of the way, off the beaten track and definitely not where you want to go if you’re into the whole apres, ‘I’m too sexy for my body’ thing. It’s like you’ve taken a whole step back in time, to what it meant to be really just in it for the the snow, and the camaraderie of being on a mountain in shared rooms, sharing the dining room stories and living the adventure. Everyone does their bit helping out with the preparation of the meals and of course the obligatory clean up. We stayed at Broken River, which was a fantastic place with really friendly people and a good cook. You may be stuck with someone in your share room who snores worse than a howitzer that’s about to blow a seal, BUT……..

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 Top of Broken River

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The ridge traverse at Broken River on the way to the last rope tow
WHEN it dumps, and the road up is closed…. It’s you and the 20 -30 other odd people on the mountain, and NO ONE ELSE!! The best way someone described it to me was…”It’s like heli-skiing , but without the helicopter’.
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Back bowl fun, there is no ‘out of bounds’ here. You go where your legs will manage!
This all sounds great right? Well it is, but for one minor detail, especially relevant if you’re on a snowboard. See there are no chairlifts, no T-Bars and no Pommas. There are ‘Rope tow’s and ‘nutcrackers’. WTF ?? I hear you say, well fair enough, I didn’t know either until I got there, and then I got schooled. The ‘nutcracker’ is the small metal device that you use to hook onto the rope tow (this is a cable that runs at 5m per second)  and get ripped up the mountain. You do this from one side which is fine when you’re on the ski’s as you’re always facing up the mountain and you’re either being pulled up on a slight angle on your right or left hand side. On a snowboard however, you’re going to be riding fakie (backwards) one way or the other….and if you think you’re pretty damn good on a stick, this will certainly help put you in your place…
A little perspective here.. We had 3 pros from the states, and the editor of one of the larger snowboarding mags staying in the lodge with us.We asked about tows the night we arrived,  “Is it as difficult as we’ve heard?”…”Worse” was the response.. “Dude, it took these guys a good 5 or 6 goes before they go it wired” Great, I thought, that’s all these guys do for a living and they found it tough….
Hmmmm the rope tow…Paul got it a hell of a lot faster than I did. Actually, he managed 3 runs before I even got my shit together enough to drag myself up the mountain…and that was after I’d almost knocked my leg off going through one of the gates that I collected on the way up. I lay in the snow and had to practice my Vipassana breathing exercises to calm that shit down. Needless to say the bruise was quite spectacular and I don’t bruise easily…

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But, when you overcome a whole set of difficult and challenging experiences to get there, it really makes the whole satisfaction of nailing it in the end all the sweeter. Unless of course you find yourself slightly distracted and then crazily sliding down a coulour and praying that you’re not about to have your existence snuffed out (Paul’s little personal adventure on the side) which can serve as a rather ‘life enhancing’ experience. Poor bugger…
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Paul: ‘I was this friggin close to dying mate!’

We also timed it perfectly with the club competition day, which was pretty awesome. It’s kind of the busiest day of the year up there, but with DJ’s and families and whole bunch of hot as shit skiers and boarders, it’s a pretty fantastic day..You’ve got a boarder-cross event, water ‘feature’ at the end and kids throwing snowballs everywhere.
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 Family fun day, the water pond on the boarder cross

 

Towards the end of the night you can sit around a fire on the mountain and have a couple and before trying to snowboard down the mountain, with more than ‘sufficient’ under the belt (not the best time for Gordo to try and keep up with the American pros in the dark ..)

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Couple of ales fireside before the dicey nightime decent- Note to self, following pros in the dark is not advisable
which only serves to entertain your mate, who will milk it for the rest of the holiday…. well then, time to enjoy everything that NZ has to offer… Hope you like the shots and do yourself a favour, go visit the cousins and get amongst it properly!! Oh, and don’t forget to drive around a bit and see as many of those postcards as possible…

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The waterfall at Otira

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 Off the back of the mountain at Porters- A T-Bar at this point is luxury

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 Paulie just taking it all in on one our ‘tramping’ sessions

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 The kind of line only maniacs would consider – Terje anyone?

 

We’re linking with the lovely Grace’s FYBF and Maxabella Loves’ Weekend Rewind

 

 

About Gordon Eckel

Gordon Eckel, a foodie and (rock) wall climber extraordinaire. He worked in some of Sydney’s top restaurants, but decided that he liked cooking for his friends more, so ran away and joined the circus (aka managing Sydney nightclubs). Six years ago and after a few too many creamy pastas he weighed 105 kg with a ridiculously high cholesterol. He changed his eating ways, wore out a treadmill and dropped 25 kilos in three months. Now he is renown for cooking deceptively healthy food and for proselytizing about the marvels of the great Australian red.

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13 comments

  1. Cybele @ BlahBlah

    It all looks so beautiful, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be good enough on a snowboard x

  2. A lot of lessons and practise my dear…but certainly no lessons from me. I like my head on my shoulders, right where it is!

  3. I will be sure to not show my crazy kiwi hubby this as he is going to want to do it with his ski/snow mad brother 🙂 Images are gorgeous. I love that country!

  4. As a Kiwi I love seeing other people rip up the slopes! Loved reading this post, and the photos, make me homesick for some powder!

    • It’s a great spot to get away, even if you’re not a skier or boarder. That being said, if you do plan to hit the club fields, get a couple of seasons under the belt first to ensure you get the most out of it!

  5. Yes gorgeous images and I had never heard of club fields… not a skiier… have slid down some green slopes but not much at all. each year I say… this is the one! I’ll take the kids… then each year I never seem to get a grip… NZ is probably a really good spot to get away too… no 7 hour drive for a start! Enjoyed this very much, great to see such expansive mountain views.

    • It’s a great spot to get away, even if you’re not a skier or boarder. That being said, if you do plan to hit the club fields, get a couple of seasons under the belt first to ensure you get the most out of it!

    • I learned to snowboard in NZ and the big advantage is the snow is softer so the falls don’t hurt quite as much x

  6. What amazing pics! Can’t wait to take my powder pups to ski NZ

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